How Dads Affect Their Daughters' Body Image

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redhead father little girl daughter
Fathers have a tremendous impact on body image and self-esteem.

When they were young, my daughters would ask me how they looked. I would say something like, "That's a wonderful color on you," or, "You really know how to accessorize." They would roll their eyes and say, "Of course, you would say that. Mothers always tell you that you look good." Then they would go into the living room where their father was reading the paper and ask "How do I look, Dad?" He would lower the paper and say, "You look great." Then they would breathe a sigh of relief and go out the door.

There's a distinction to be made here, though. When both parents praise beauty constantly, a girl believes that her phsyical attractiveness is what matters most in the world. Though it's important to compliment physical attributes, also encourage intellect, bravery, humor, kindness and compassion.

Picture again the scene in the first paragraph. Imagine how the dad felt when he saw his little girl. She was playing with dolls but obviously in need of a bra. It was mind-blowing for him to suddenly realize his daughter was a sexual being. Rather than commenting negatively on her growing body, it was an opportunity for him to suggest a shopping trip and lunch together.

While a hundred dollars and two hours spent at the mall bonding with his daughter might seem like a lot, consider it two hours saved with a therapist when she's an adult. Absolutely nothing says, "I love you, accept you and honor you," like time. This connection will demonstrate that parental involvement is essential to acceptance of body and mind image of a child. It empowers young girls to become a self-assured woman.

You will find a deeper discussion and suggestions of building self-confidence in your children at How To Help Kids Like Themselves. Parents, extended family, and other caring adults can make a huge difference in the life of a child.  It is the most important work we do.

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